Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Governor Otter, Superintendent Luna Recognize Idaho Education Network Heroes

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna recognized nine pioneering educators today on the first anniversary of the Idaho Education Network (IEN).

The “Talk” awards highlight innovative uses of Idaho’s new super high-speed, interactive educational network that makes real-time, two-way education possible. Each recipient’s school will receive a $250 prize to use toward further innovation via the IEN.

 “After just one year, approximately 40 percent of Idaho high schools and more than 33,000 students are connected to the Idaho Education Network,” Governor Otter said.  “These awards highlight educators who are leading the way in tapping the full and incredible potential of this new technology.”

To demonstrate the power of the network’s technology, the Governor and Superintendent Luna made the presentations live from the State Department of Education, connecting with high schools statewide.

The IEN equips high school classrooms with giant screens and multiple cameras powered by fiber-optic technology, which allows students and teachers to “visit” virtually anywhere in the world, and to talk and learn from others in real time, face to face.  The technology provides schools with significantly more bandwidth, and in the case of some schools, it’s ten times the capacity prior to the IEN.

A primary purpose of the system is to increase access to educational opportunities in Idaho’s schools, especially in rural communities. 

“Every day we strive to meet the needs of all students, no matter where they live or what they want to be when they grow up. The IEN will help us accomplish this goal,” Superintendent Luna said. “The IEN bridges the digital divide between urban and rural communities in Idaho, providing unprecedented educational opportunities to students regardless of where they live in our great state.  Now, students have access to any high school or college-level course via the IEN.”

Currently, 33,674 students at 80 Idaho high schools (40 percent statewide) have access to the IEN.  By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, another 80 high schools will be connected to the IEN, and by mid-2012, all of Idaho’s 82,000 students at 200 public high schools will be connected.

Want to learn more about the IEN? Check out the IEN's new website and see videos of how Idaho teachers and principals are using it to improve student achievement statewide.      

Here are the recipients of the 2010 “Talk” awards are:

Cindy Albertson, counselor at Sandpoint High School (Lake Pend Oreille School District).  Cindy was introduced to the IEN last year and found that she had four high school students who were willing and ready to take a Calculus II class their senior year.  Last spring and summer, Cindy led the charge to bring in a class from Dave Gural at Eagle High School.  She received interest from Northwestern University and the University of Idaho for an online class, but ultimately selected to receive a class from one of Idaho’s best teachers. Sandpoint students will begin class with Gural over the IEN this fall.

Steve Higgins, principal at Grangeville High School (Mountain View School District).   Grangeville is located in one of Idaho’s most rugged and remote areas of the state, making educational access a challenge.  Steve forged partnerships with Lewis and Clark State College and the neighboring Cottonwood School District to share classes over the IEN.  Because of Steve’s collaborative efforts, students in two high schools now will have increased educational opportunities, and both these districts will benefit from the efficiencies provided by the IEN. 

Dave Davies, principal at Weiser High School (Weiser School District).  Dave has been involved with the IEN since before its inception, cultivating the possibilities for students and communities using distance learning.  Because of Dave, the Weiser community has had workforce training and professional development opportunities provided by Idaho State University and the POST Academy.  Elementary and secondary students in his district have been introduced to the world on “field trips” to NASA and Alaska’s Sea Life Center.  Weiser High School has forged innovative partnerships with the Emmett School District to share a series of classes, and this fall will offer a speech class to the Murtaugh School District.

Dave Gural, Calculus II teacher at Eagle High School (Meridian School District). Dave was at first reluctant to teach over the IEN, but in doing so, he quickly became one of the hottest commodities in education.  Dave has been a champion in leveraging technology to deliver demanding and rigorous curricula.  Dave started out delivering his Eagle High advanced placement course concurrently with students at Emmett High School. This fall, he will include students at Sandpoint High School, more than 450 miles away. 

Michelle Capps, Superintendent of the Murtaugh School District.  Since the beginning, Michelle saw the IEN as a huge opportunity for her school district.  In a very short time, Michelle forged a partnership with Weiser High School to offer a speech class to her students.  To introduce her community to the IEN and showcase its possibilities, Michelle took residents – young and old – on a virtual dive at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  This demonstrated the power of the IEN through an eye-opening experience for many who rarely have the opportunity to leave Idaho.

Ben Allen, principal at Twin Falls High School (Twin Falls School District).  Because of Ben’s leadership, the Twin Falls School District is rapidly becoming the state leader in creating dual credit opportunities for students all over southern and eastern Idaho.  By partnering with the College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls High School is now offering college-level classes intra-district to students at Canyon Ridge High School, and out of district to high school students in the Jerome, Sugar Salem, Gooding, North Gem and Preston School Districts.

Melvin Beutler, Superintendent of the West Side School District. If you want to build a dual credit program where 95 percent of your high school seniors graduate with college credits, you need a champion like Melvin.  Last year, West Side High School juniors and seniors completed more than 800 college credits. West Side’s goal is for every student to graduate from high school with 20 college credits.  Melvin knows that a rigorous high school experience is what best prepares students to succeed in college.  West Side is setting the bar high statewide as Melvin’s vision is that his high school become a de facto community college, where all students graduate from high school with an associate’s degree. 

Jared Jenks, Sugar-Salem High School principal, and Jim Winn, Literature teacher (Sugar Salem School District.  Jared has been an outspoken advocate for the increased opportunities provided by the IEN.  In a very short time, he developed multiple dual credit opportunities for his students, encouraging his teachers to use the IEN as an innovative teaching tool and classroom resource.  He is currently working to offer the community professional-technical education opportunities in the energy field in conjunction with Idaho State University. 

Jim Winn used the IEN to provide real-world relevance to what students were learning in his class. Following readings about the Holocaust, students took a virtual tour of the Holocaust Museum in New York, followed by talking for an hour with a survivor.  Jim also arranged for a master’s degree program in Human Resources from Utah State University to be provided over the IEN. 

The name “Talk” awards reflects the fact that talking and sharing with others is fundamental to learning, and that the IEN offers a “face-to-face” experience that is the next best thing to being there in person.  “Talk” award winners also received $250 in prize money to be used to further use of the IEN (i.e. dual enrollment courses, field trips, professional development classes, etc). 

The IEN "Talk” awards were underwritten as a public service by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Prizes were underwritten by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Home Federal Bank, Intermountain Community Bank, K12 Inc, and Premier Technology, Inc.

~ Melissa M.

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